Tips for maintaining any home more lived-in than a nunnery are hard to come by in most decorating magazines. The problem, as I see it, is that real people don’t read decorating magazines. Put a hand-crafted Horn O’ Plenty filled with foam pumpkins and fake wheat on your table as a nice little Thanksgiving centerpiece, and you have maybe eleven minutes before the kids have fed the gourds to the dog and are using the cornucopia to hammer thumbtacks into your “occasional” table.
Fortunately, I’ve spent the better part of the last twenty-plus years waiting for my real life to be delivered, and have had the chance to learn a thing or two about loaner home maintenance, cleaning, and, if necessary, explosives-based demolition. Allow me to start with...
You may be wondering why we don’t begin with something more exciting, like matching throw pillows to paint chips. Well, I’m here to tell you, whatever you acquire, install, hang up, drape, paint, fluff, knick, knack, or paddy-whack, is eventually going to have to be cleaned. Knowing this can save you a lot of aggravation, and money, since it’s amazing how optional something like a couch becomes when you imagine yourself scraping nail polish off the cushions. “Yoga mats for everyone!” you’ll gleefully declare. (Don’t be discouraged by your family’s lack of enthusiasm. It’s nothing a couple of weeks in the lotus position won’t cure.)
When it comes to cleaning tools, size matters, and bigger is always better. I laugh right out loud when I see commercials for toys like the Swiffer Wet Jet or that weird, bendy static duster. Unless you live in Barbie’s Malibu Beach Condo, those “tools” just aren’t gonna cut it.
My mop, for example, is the approximate size of a twin mattress; my vacuum could slurp up a Cessna. If you have to sweep, and I’m not suggesting you do anything rash, use a broom as wide as a Volkswagen with bristles made of sharks’ teeth. Let that floor know it will PAY for letting the kids dump vegetable oil and powdered sugar all over it.
As for cleaning products, I recommend paint thinner. For everything. Walls, upholstery, dogs, you name it, paint thinner cleans it all.
Except the kids’ bathroom, where nothing beats the Ronco “Home Flame Thrower and Accessory Kit”. Comes in decorator colors.
I’m opposed to it. If your kids’ clothes get dirty, take them down to the river and beat them on a rock. The kids or the clothes; it doesn’t really matter.
EVERYTHING ELSE EXCEPT THE STUFF I DIDN'T THINK ABOUT
In my real life, I’m a highly sought-after consultant on the subject of all things decorative. As for this temp life I’m keeping warm in the meantime, I’m no less experienced a decorator, but I admit to being a little more, well, scaled down.
Take the word “throw” as an example. Throw pillows, throw blankets, throw rugs – think "Dumpster" and get on with your life. Throw furniture, on the other hand, that’s something else. Remember, your kids believe everything in their little universe is something to play with, eat, destroy, or weaponize. So I recommend chairs made of tofu and peanut butter. Your television should be an etch-a-sketch, and dishes should be dissolvable in water.
I also advise that all home furnishings be kept outside your house, maybe even left at the home furnishing store. Because children could find a way to bounce on a concrete trampoline or turn a Q-tip into a weapon of mass destruction, the fewer resources they have in their arsenal the better.
Walls tend to decorate themselves, or so the pathological liars you’re raising would have you believe. One day we found the wall in our girls’ room covered in green circles and squares. My husband, a trained investigator, and I, someone with functioning retinas, scoured the place for clues. It wasn’t easy:
“Hmmm, let’s see. Green circles and squares on the wall. Four-year-old Vanessa sitting on the floor, facing the wall. Green permanent marker in Vanessa’s hand, pressed against the wall. Half-finished green circle under the point of the marker. Whaddya think, Sherlock?”
Vanessa, however, had a much simpler solution to the Mystery of the Green Geometry Project. Without batting an eye or missing a beat, she looked up at us and brazenly testified,
“Cori drew on the wall.”
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STILL TO COME...
Tips on landscaping, where I show you 101 things you can do with dirt, and a whole chapter dedicated to taking care of your heart and soul without the use of hallucinogens.
This is all copyrighted material, you know. Just thought I'd mention that.